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Regional boom in startups if oil prices remain low

The Peninsula

14 March 2016
DOHA: BECO Capital, a regional Venture Capital firm that invests in technology startups, expects entrepreneurship and VC activity in the Arab region to surge if the global and regional economies continue to slow down. 

There is a strong positive correlation between a weak economy and a booming tech industry, according to BECO. The economic slowdown is what has allowed technology companies to boom globally and the same is projected to happen regionally.

"There is no better time to be a tech entrepreneur in the region than now. During these difficult economic conditions, there is a silver lining. It is when economic conditions are challenging that consumers and enterprises look for the most efficient and innovative solutions, and these are provided by technology companies," said Dany Farha, Chief Executive Officer of BECO Capital. 

"We should continue to innovate at the early stage and help build amazing businesses in the later ones. Those contribute substantially to income, output and employment. History has proved that a weak economy spurs entrepreneurship and innovation. There is no better time to fund SMEs and entrepreneurs than in a downturn," he said.

"Higher Unemployment in a slower economy triggers a positive cycle of young pioneering professionals who create their own jobs by starting their own small ventures. It is the reason we witness a rise of new entrepreneurs in France and Spain, where both countries are enduring the industrialised world's highest unemployment rates," he added.

Dany Farha explains that despite a difficult second half of 2015, drawn down by slumping oil prices and budget deficits, the region's tech entrepreneurship landscape continued to move upwards. "The ecosystem is expanding and has witnessed a rise of the digital economy and the emergence of potential regional unicorns," he affirmed.

The GCC governments are trying to replace oil-reliant economies through economic diversification policies, in order to reduce their oil dependence. The UAE, in particular, has seen a lower oil price impact as its successful decade-long diversification strategies are coming to fruition. 

The non-oil private sector continues to show strong growth. This will further encourage governments to support the SMEs sector, and thus the startup and entrepreneurship environment.

"A weaker economy projects a new perspective in terms of diversification, as it fuels a more entrepreneurial and innovative approach in a tough and competitive work environment. The need to raise the bar on quality and service and to become more efficient and effective tend to inspire new ideas," explained Dany Farha. "Some of the biggest leaps in technology were made in the second half of the 1980s" when oil prices ranged from $25/bbl to $45/bbl in inflation-adjusted terms," he said.

© The Peninsula 2016

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